During a panel for the Television Critics Association, also known as TCA, American Idol judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan spoke about the lack of diversity inside the country music industry.
During a panel Q&A section, a TCA member asked, "Morgan Wallen uses a racial slur and he's more popular than ever. I'm wondering what 'Idol' can do and what you guys can do to address this issue and maybe diversify country music more."
Richie was the first to respond saying that every contestant is treated like if they were family. "We represent America and the music business and we come from very different walks of life," Richie stated. "But at the same time, we can come together and celebrate one thing: Each other."
After the singer responded, the reporter replied, "Well, how does that specifically solve the problems that are going on in country music right now and dealing with the perception that there's racism in country music, and that it's not open to people who are Black and Asian?"
Bryan responded, saying "First of all, there's racism throughout the whole country. Just to just sit here and single out country music as some kind of racist format is not altogether natural and true."
The country singer continued, "I've been privy to various board meetings where we recognize our problems as an industry, and things take time. I think this country learns every day about the severity of racism. And like I said, I think sometimes you have to open your eyes and understand other people's side of the story."
Bryan went on to say that while on stage he was always "fired up" whenever he saw "an African-American fan or someone of a different color that didn't look like a typical country music fan."
He continued, "It was always one of the coolest images in my world because that means I crossed over and touched somebody else that maybe stereotypically somebody else wouldn't agree with, and I think, as country music learns, yes, there's a bigger audience out there for us as artists."
The reporter's question was in reference to an incident Morgan Wallen was part of after being caught on film yelling a racial slur while out with friends. Wallen was dropped from country radio and had his recording contract suspended. (However, in recent months, Wallen's music has been added back into rotation on country stations.)
Following the incident, Wallen apologized, saying, "I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better."
Last year, Wallen won three Billboard Music Awards, despite him being uninvited from the show. Earlier this year he performed at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, which caused major backlash on social media from fans and other country music stars.
About the situation, Bryan stated at the panel, "I think we are going to grow, and you are going to see tremendous changes. You bring up the Morgan situation -- that's a situation that I think country music and the industry is doing everything they can to recognize, and these things take time. They take time in the National Football League. They take time as a country."
The singer concluded by saying that whenever someone went to audition for American Idol the judges, Richie, Byran and Katy Perry, don't care what they look like or what their personal sexual orientation is. "We look at them with an open heart and an open mind," Bryan said, "And do you know what? For the most part, what I'm proud of [is that] we feel like our viewers at home are doing the exact same thing. Are we ever going to bat a thousand? Never. But we damn sure work hard to give everybody love."
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